Byline: Rana Foroohar
Forget the world cup, the Olympics, even the miss universe pageant. These are the globe's true national champions.
Warren Buffett likes to say that anything good that's ever happened to him can be traced back to the fact that he was born in the right country--America--at the right time. And it's true: while remarkable individuals can be found in any nation on earth, certain countries give their citizens much greater opportunity to succeed than others at certain points in time. It's an issue that is particularly pressing today. As wealth and power shift from West to East, and a new post-crisis world order continues to take shape, it's no longer clear that being born and raised in Omaha offers quite the edge that it once might have.
In NEWSWEEK's first-ever Best Countries special issue, we set out to answer a question that is at once simple and incredibly complex--if you were born today, which country would provide you the very best opportunity to live a healthy, safe, reasonably prosperous, and upwardly mobile life? Many organizations measure various aspects of national competitiveness. But none attempt to put them all together. For this special survey, then, NEWSWEEK chose five categories of national well-being--education, health, quality of life, economic competitiveness, and political environment--and compiled metrics within these categories across 100 nations. A weighted formula yielded an overall list of the world's top 100 countries (for a look at the exact data points we used and how we weighted them, as well as how each country did across the various categories, check out newsweek.com).
The effort took several months, during which we received copious aid from an advisory board that included Nobel laureate and Columbia University professor Joseph E. Stiglitz; McKinsey & Co. Social Sector Office director Byron Auguste; McKinsey Global Institute director James Manyika; Jody Heymann, the founding director of McGill University's Institute for Health and Social Policy and a professor at the university; and Geng Xiao, director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy, headquartered in Beijing.
They would be the first to admit that like any list, this one isn't perfect. Finding comparable data points for the world's richest and poorest countries alike was hugely constraining--often we had to choose fewer or less-nuanced metrics in order to include the broadest array of nations. …